Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Fantastic Beasts: The Politics of Dumbledore

I'm not the biggest fan of the Fantastic Beasts series. The Harry Potter spin-off has offered the opportunity to explore other corners of the wizarding world outside of Hogwarts, but the results have been mixed. While I still enjoyed both Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Crimes of Grindelwald, I'd rate them as the least engaging of the Wizarding World films.

So what does Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore offer us? Secrets into the life of Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law)? New spells and magical artifacts? Strange new creatures? Instead we get... politics. I think given all the possibilities what fans would least expect is wizard politics, but that's where Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Dumbledore, and their various allies journey into trying to protect a wizarding world election from being stolen by Gellert Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen replacing Johnny Depp).

What's odd for a political movie, other than being the central piece of a Harry Potter film, is the film is completely disinterested in the candidates. They aren't introduced, and their names are only briefly show in banners during a rally. Honestly, I can't tell you a anything about them, let alone what they stand for or why they would make a better leader for the wizarding world. And, at least from what we're shown here, I'm pretty sure the writers of the film couldn't either. Sure we know that Grindelwald is bad, but how about a single reason why either of the other candidates are any better?

Being as this is a Fantastic Beasts film, there is a creature involved which ties Newt into the story. And this creature appears early in the film as part of Grindelwald's evil plan (which likely would have had been more successful  if he had simply tried to win the election legitimately and never gotten Newt involved). We do get one other monster sequence in which Newt has to rely on his creature knowledge to break a colleague out of prison. While quite dark, the sequence provides both the best action and humor of the film.

Dan Fogler and Alison Sudol both return, giving the opportunity to delve back into their relationship. While neither is necessary, at least this time each character has a purpose to being included (rather than just fan service as we saw in the last film). Jessica Williams is a nice addition who steps in to the Katherine Waterston role as the talented female witch largely replacing Waterson's character this time around. And  Credence (Ezra Miller) returns because... well, I'm not really sure. Maybe he was under contract for another film and so they felt the need to shoehorn his story into one of various subplot dead ends. 

The backdrop of the film is actually more interesting than the story we're given as Europe braces against the coming of World War II. I kept waiting for the film to offer some insight about human nature or politics or make use of its historical setting, but really it's just an excuse to provide nostalgic, mostly CGI, locales and a return to Hogwarts on a year where apparently less than a dozen students attended. While some of the diehard Potter fans seemed content with The Secrets of Dumbledore, for me the disappointments of the latest entry into the franchise are anything but secret.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
  • IMDb: link

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